China's Smog Impacts U.S. Air Quality, Study Finds

SINGAPORE - JUNE 20: Friends mingle at the Marina Bay Waterfront as the city skyline is filled with smog on June 20, 2013 in Singapore. The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) rose to the highest level on record reaching 371 at 1pm. The haze is created by deliberate slash-and-burn forest fires started by companies in neighbouring Sumatra.  (National Journal)

The U.S. isn't immune to the high concentrations of smog that fill the air in China. And domestic demand for Chinese exports is part of the reason why, a study finds.

The New York Times reports that research published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that prevailing winds known as westerlies facilitate the movement of pollutants, including dust, nitrogen oxides. and carbon, from China to the western United States.

The study, which was undertaken by a group of nine academic researchers, demonstrates a link between air pollutants in the U.S. that have migrated across the Pacific Ocean from China and the pollution given off by the production of goods in China for export abroad.

While the effects of air pollution in the U.S. from China is minimal compared with other major sources of domestic industrial and commercial pollutants such as power plants, the study shows that U.S. consumers cannot entirely escape the environmental consequences of the bustling Chinese export market.

The study also concluded that atmospheric concentrations of pollutants in the U.S. were lower than they would be in the aggregate if the scale of manufacturing that takes place in China to provide exported products for domestic markets were to take place on our soil rather than abroad.

Nevertheless, "this is a reminder to us that a significant percentage of China's emissions of traditional pollutants and greenhouse-gas emissions are connected to the products we buy and use every day in the U.S.," commented Alex Wang, a law professor at UCLA with a focus on Chinese environmental policy. "We should be concerned not only because this pollution is harming the citizens of China but because it's damaging the air quality in parts of the U.S."